Impeccable food, cosy nooks, and rooms with a view: 30 of the best romantic restaurants in Ireland
Romance is not just for Valentine's Day, so visit these restaurants - featuring cosy nooks, rooms with a view and, of course, impeccable food - for loved-up dining all year long, writes our food critic
February 14 is perhaps a night best avoided in restaurants, as there can be little more dispiriting than row upon row of two-tops adorned with single red roses, the air heavy with the weight of expectations un-met. But while forced romance can leave you feeling anything but loved-up, there are restaurants all over the country that just can't help being romantic, whatever the date. Here - in no particular order - we list 30 of the most romantic places to have a meal across the country.
1 Piglet Wine Bar
Enrico Fantasia and Thibaud Harang's ramshackle little wine bar serves delicious food and memorable wines. Drop in for anything from snacks of duck gizzards with garlic bread to plates of (excellent) pasta and a fine côte de boeuf. You may start by thinking that you're just having the one glass, and before you know it you're a magnum down. On summer evenings, you can sit outside.
Find it: Cow's Lane, Temple Bar, Dublin 2. pigletwinebar.ie
The cosy banquettes and booths at Luna have fanned the flames of many a romance and the glamorous décor almost demands the putting on of the glad rags and making an occasion out of dinner. The menu is geared towards the luxurious, with oysters, truffles and seafood all featuring, and the Louis Copeland-tailored staff look magnificent. Manager Declan Maxwell runs the room with aplomb, and if the evening goes really well you can host your wedding reception here too.
Find it: 2-3 Drury Street, Dublin 2. lunarestaurant.ie
Garett Byrne and Brid Hannon's Michelin-starred Campagne is where you'll find the best eating in Kilkenny, and the luscious, no-holds-barred French-inspired food is the perfect match for an elegant room and classy service. Catch the train down for lunch for a decadent escape from reality - Campagne is a handy two-minute walk from the station.
Find it: 5 The Arches, Gas House Lane, Kilkenny. campagne.ie
The dining room at Greene's has floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook a 60ft waterfall, and Bryan McCarthy's food is a sophisticated take on high quality local and seasonal ingredients. Manager Frank Schiltkamp runs a seamless service, while the smart Cask bar next door is the ideal spot for pre- or post-dinner cocktails.
Find it: 48 MacCurtain Street, Montenotte, Cork.
Take the object of your desires to Etto, sit either at the counter or at the cosy corner table on the left, away from the door, and share burrata, côte de boeuf and red wine prunes, perhaps with a little cheese to finish - not forgetting some good Italian red wine - for a guaranteed 'yes'.
Find it: 18 Merrion Row, Dublin 2. etto.ie
6 Uno Mas
Uno Mas is Etto's younger but slightly bigger sibling and whereas Etto's schtick is Italian, Uno Mas' is Spanish. Everything is good, but the tortilla is unmissable. Ditto the octopus. And the mushrooms. And the Delmonico. The little nook for two opposite the bar is the place to hide away if you're trying to keep a low profile. Drink sherry, vermouth and delectable Spanish wine.
Find it: 6 Aungier Street, Dublin 2. unomas.ie
7 La Maison
Classic French cuisine - think escargots, coq au vin and crème brûlée, low lighting and a bistro ambience make La Maison the first choice for Francophile romantics in the mood for amour.
Find it: 15 Castle Market, Dublin 2. lamaisondublin.com
8 Blairscove House & Restaurant
On one side of the courtyard of a beautiful Georgian House is a stone-walled, church-like restaurant converted from the original stables belonging to the house. There's a help-yourself buffet of starters, meat is cooked over an open fire in the dining room, and local seafood is a specialty. Four smart suites are just across the courtyard, so if you plan ahead it's only a one-minute stroll from table to bed, and you can walk the Sheeps Head and Mizen peninsulas the next morning to blow away any cobwebs. Blairscove also has an excellent reputation as a wedding venue.
Find it: Dunmanus Bay, West Cork. blairscove.ie
9 The Green Hen
Perhaps it's the fact that the city centre restaurant doesn't allow children on the premises after 5pm that makes upstairs so popular with couples? The menu is concise and won't scare off plain eaters; food blogger Rory Carrick says "it has a nice date feel about it".
Find it: 33 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2. thegreenhen.ie
10 Terra Madre
Down a few steps off Bachelor's Walk, the quality of the food at tiny Terra Madre belies the restaurant's slightly higgledy-piggledy feel. This is the real Italian deal - none of your red-sauce excuses. Eat truffles and burrata or whatever is on the day's highly seasonal short menu and drink serious red wine, while gazing into one another's eyes.
Find it: 13a Bachelor's Walk, Dublin 1. terramadre.ie
Peploe's is looking good after a deep-pockets refurb, and chef Graeme Dodrill's high-end bistro food employs fine local produce to create a crowd-pleasing menu that's a cut above. Peploe's is somewhere worth donning the heels and glad rags for, with maitre d' Frederick coming in for special praise - "he has a lovely natural way of making me feel like a lady," says one fan.
Find it: 16 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2.
12 Chapter One
The Michelin-starred Chapter One manages to be both sophisticated and unstuffy, and the tables are pleasingly far apart, ideal for the whispering of sweet nothings. Ross Lewis' cooking is amongst the best on the island; it's impossible to eat at Chapter One and not feel that you've had a very special experience.
Find it: 18-19 Parnell Square North, Dublin 1.
Mark Jennings and Sadie Pearce's lovely restaurant in Rosscarbery serves a hyper-seasonal menu that changes every day. One of the tables has a secret drawer of love letters underneath, and a fan says that "you'll be weeping into your oak-smoked potatoes" after reading a handful. TV chef, food tour leader and blogger, Karen Coakley (@Kenmare Foodies) says that she loves the ethos, the vibe … and those oak-smoked potatoes with wild garlic aioli.
Find it: South Square, Rosscarbery, Co Cork. pilgrims.ie
14 Il Vicolo
Il Vicolo is a favourite with Galway couples, who love its quaint charm and romantic ambience; the sharing boards of cheese and meat are one relaxed option, but you won't go wrong with linguine alle vongole made with Connemara clams, tagliata and tiramisu.
Find it:, The Bridge Mills, Dominick Street Lower, Galway. ilvicolo.ie
15 Mustard Seed
Sophisticated Irish food combined with old-school hospitality in a gorgeous rural location makes The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge one of Ireland's favourite spots for romance. Fans commend "open fires to snuggle up in front of when the rain is lashing down outside" and "amazing food, a beautiful high-ceilinged room, pristine linen, and above all the friendliest staff in Ireland".
Find it: Ballingarry, Co Limerick. mustardseed.ie
16 Port House
The dimly lit little cave that is the Port House on South William Street is cosy, intimate and ideal for dates. A menu of tapas and pinxtos, complemented by sherries, ports and Spanish wines, is ideal for sharing.
Find it: 64 South William Street, Dublin 2. porthouse.ie
17 Inis Meáin Restaurant
A table in the tiny 16-seater dining room is highly sought after, and if you are lucky enough to secure one then you really should consider proposing. Top tip: selfless folk will sit with their backs to the wall of glass and the views out over the island towards the sea. Open from mid-March to the end of September; if you are very lucky you can stay in Inis Meáin's suites … but they are all booked out for 2019.
Find it: Inis Meáin, Aran Islands, Co Galway. inismeain.com
18 Inishturk Community club
Open for lunch and dinner for three months in the summer, the community centre on the island has a bar at one end and serves simple, impeccable local fish and seafood, including lobster. Wine is available but you can bring your own if you ask ahead. "The views from the window table across the sea to the Reeks is breathtakingly beautiful," says one visitor, who warns that it's a steep walk up a hill from the pier.
Find it: Inishturk, Co Mayo. inishturkisland.com
19 Wilde at the Westbury
"Food, atmosphere, décor and especially the staff," are what make the upmarket Wilde restaurant at the Westbury special for Talha Pasha, last year's Dublin RAI restaurant manager of the year, of Michael's in Mount Merrion. "It's the perfect spot for a romantic meal," he says, "they treat you like royalty."
Find it: Westbury Hotel, Dublin 2. doylecollection.com
20 Chez Max
The branch of Chez Max beside Dublin Castle is "dark, cosy and French," with a menu of reasonably priced bistro classics that make it a perennial favourite. A good choice for romantics on a budget.
Find it: 1 Palace Street, Dublin 2. chezmax.ie
21 Aldridge Lodge
The combination of Billy Whitty's food (Aldridge Lodge holds a prestigious Michelin Bib Gourmand) and the welcome from Joanne Harding is "second to none" says one loyal customer, who advises trying to book a window seat looking out across Duncannon towards Hook Lighthouse for maximum romance.
Find it: Duncannon, Co Wexford. aldridgelodge.com
22 O'Dowd's Seafood
In Connemara romantics are spoiled for choice when it comes to places to eat - Renvyle House where the poet Yeats spent his honeymoon and the table by the window at Inagh Lodge being just two - but a walk along Gurteen Beach followed by Guinness and oysters at O'Dowd's, overlooking the harbour in Roundstone, is hard to beat.
Find it: Roundstone, Co Galway. odowdsseafoodbar.com
23 L'Atitude 51
With a menu crafted from ingredients of impeccable provenance, plenty of dishes designed for sharing and a magnificent wine list, Corkonians say that L'Atitude 51 is amongst the best places for romance in the city.
Find it: 1 Union Quay, Cork. latitude51.ie
24 La Cucina
Mateo Saina, whom you'll recognise as one of the stars of First Dates Ireland - and who shares his tips for a successful first date with us today on page 12 - is the maitre d' at La Cucina. A cosy, intimate ambience and authentic rustic Italian food complete the experience.
Find it: Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, 59 South William Street, Dublin 2. lacucinarestaurant.ie
25 Moran's Oyster Cottage
Moran's is deservedly an institution and it's lovely to sit outside on a summer's day, but for our money it's even more romantic if you manage to nab one of the snugs to the front and happen to get stuck there, eating oysters, when the weather is bad and the water comes up over the road making it impossible to leave.
Find it: Kilcolgan, Co Galway. moransoystercottage.com
26 An Port Mór
Frankie Mallon's restaurant serves some of the best food in the west, and regulars commend its great vibe and lovely service. A gem.
Find it: 1 Brewery Place, Westport, Co Mayo. anportmor.com
27 Deasy's Harbour Bar & Seafood Restaurant
A pub by the water with candles and open fires is the location of Caitlin Ruth's kitchen, where the US-born chef crafts food that has garnered Deasy's a reputation as one of the best places to eat in West Cork. Nice and relaxed, perfect for low-key romantics.
Find it: Ring village, near Clonakilty, Co Cork. (023) 8835741.
28 Rosa Madre
Rosa Madre is the seafood lovers' restaurant of choice, which makes it a perfect spot for a romantic dinner for two. Raw fish is the specialty - Sicilian red prawns, sea urchins and the like - but there's plenty of impeccably cooked fish too.
Find it: 7 Crow Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2. rosamadre.ie
29 Salmon Inn
The Salmon Inn comes highly recommended as a "beautiful spot to share a lobster or two while watching the sun go down over Donegal Bay." Idyllic.
Find it: Mullinasole Pier near Donegal Town. thesalmoninn.ie
Peter Everett's smart city centre establishment is the restaurant of choice for sophisticated gourmands in search of excellent modern food and fine wine - no surprise that the chef has a stint at Chapter One on his CV. Located in the remains of what was once the 15th century home of the 11-times mayor of Waterford, you can choose between eating in the Front Room or the atmospheric Vault.
Find it: 22 High Street, Waterford. everetts.ie